Reopening of the Church
It is summertime in Colorado! What a strange summer it is! I hope that you are able to find ways to enjoy the beauty and splendor of our part of the world! Luckily for me, fly fishing is, by its very nature, a sport that requires social distancing! I hope to enjoy the rivers of our state!
We are witnessing things returning to a slightly more “normal” state. We have eaten in a restaurant for the first time in a long time. Stores are opening. We feel a little freer than we have in months. And, of course, people are asking when we can worship together again in our church building.
I have been reading as much of the information as I can about reopening. I have focused on the material form the Annual Conference and from the state of Colorado. While many things are opening, it is still problematic for large groups of people to meet together. As we make these decisions, I continue to focus on two things, your safety, and the quality of the experience. It is clear that we have the “right” to open. The question is, is it right to open?
As of now, I believe that the protocols required of us to open would so diminish the quality of the experience that it will not be our best decision to open the doors just now. Both the Conference and the State keep saying that folks over 65 are still at a significant risk. Like most churches, that is most of our folks! Of course, we will not have someone at the door checking your ID! But I would hate for some of our vulnerable people to come and get sick. We are also required to limit the folks here, keep social distancing, not just in the sanctuary, but in the hallways, bathrooms, and the rest of the building. We are asked to remove all books and paper from the sanctuary, ask people to wear masks, clean after each service, and keep a detailed list of participants for contact tracing purposes. I admit, however, that as difficult as this would be, the thing that bothers me most is that we are asked to not have any congregational singing, no choirs, no large groups singing, and no spoken responsive liturgy, like the Lord’s Prayer! In other words, we could have up to a hundred folks, spread out in the sanctuary, listening to us, but no fellowship time, no greeting time, little interaction.
There is no way we can open before August, and I suspect it will be after Labor Day before we can have any idea of when we can begin to open up. In the meantime, we are working hard to offer worship with two drive in services, our televised Sunday service, a live streamed Chapel service, and other opportunities to connect. I read recently that 67% of the churches have not opened yet, and over 80% of the churches with 1000 or more in worship have not opened yet! Those of us in larger churches realize the complexity of opening for a handful of people and the difficulty of having a worship experience that is close to the quality we have offered in the past.
Please continue to come together at the Drive in services. Watch on television and online. Invite others to watch our services. And pray for us in leadership as we make difficult decisions moving forward. I am impressed by your faithfulness and resilience. Remember, you don’t “go” to church. You are the church! I miss being with you in our beautiful building! But we have not stopped being the church!